MLML Climate Collective (MCC): Addressing the climate crisis with collective action

by Taylor Azizeh and Basil Darby, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab and MLML Physical Oceanography Lab

These days, “climate change” seems like a buzzword in many settings. However, the rapid and devastating effects of an anthropogenically-shifting climate are at the forefront of scientists’ minds at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). Underneath the brilliant science happening in our small community and amidst administrative bureaucracy, there is a stormy, ominous cloud hanging over our heads, echoing the same collective thought: What are we going to do about climate change?

As we write this in early September 2022, California is experiencing one of the most extreme heat waves ever recorded in the western United States at this time of year. On the other side of the world, after months of endless monsoons which have resulted in ten times the average rainfall, over one-third of Pakistan is underwater, with massive floods displacing millions of people. Pakistan contributes only 0.6% of global CO2 but is facing devastating repercussions. This is becoming an all-too-familiar story for most of the global south

It’s undeniable that excess carbon dioxide produced by humans through industry, energy production, transportation, and more is affecting the entire planet in innumerable ways, including via heat waves. To quote the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” [1]

The world’s oceans, which cover 70% of the Earth, have acted as a massive carbon sink by absorbing 90% of the excess heat produced by increased carbon emissions [1]. Studying the ocean’s role in global systems is an overarching objective of researchers at MLML. We are a consortium institution that was founded in a spirit of collaboration across CSU campuses and disciplines, with the goal of “advancing marine science, serving society, and transforming public discourse and policy towards sustainable human interaction with the world.”

As such, researchers here cover an incredibly wide range of topics. For the most part, we are acutely interested in how climate change affects marine systems, ranging from mammals to invertebrates to large-scale oceanographic processes (for examples of this, see Table 1).

Table 1. Examples in the literature of how climate change can affect the eight main faculty research groups at MLML.
Lab Sources
Biological Oceanography Gradinger (1996), Thompson et al. (2015)
Chemical Oceanography Altieri & Gedan (2014), Hoegh-Guldberg et al.(2007)
Geological Oceanography Hunt et al. (2013), Trenhaile et al. (2010)
Ichthyology Lab Genner et al. (2010), Pörtner et al. (2007)
Invertebrate Ecology Byrne et al. (2020), Reddin et al. (2020)
Phycology Lab Assis et al. (2018), Krumhansel et al. (2013)
Physical Oceanography Bakun et al. (1990), van Leeuwen et al. (2022), 
Vertebrate Ecology Kovacs & Lydersen (2008), Forcada & Trathan (2009)
It’s happening now… and it’s serious

The negative effects of anthropogenic climate change are innumerable and could range from food shortages and an increased risk of disease to all-out wars over water rights and access (see the IPCC report [1] for a more complete list). It has also been shown that human impacts are causing what is known as the sixth mass extinction [3]. It’s impossible to overstate the implications resulting from this, especially if we continue along the same trajectory of emissions (Figure 1).

The U.S. economy is projected to lose between about 1% to 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually by 2100 through shifts in mortality, labor, production, agriculture, crime, and coastal storms under a high emissions scenario. The question, therefore, is not “How can we afford to implement solutions?”, but rather: How can we afford not to?

“Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development.” [2]

Figure 1. Projections of temperature into the future given different emission scenarios. Source: IPCC (2021), Credit: Jenessa Duncombe

One of the first steps in addressing a problem is identifying the root cause. The individual is not to blame. There have been many examples of how companies like Exxon Mobil influence policy by lobbying politicians, producing disinformation campaigns, and actively preventing solutions. And considering US taxpayers are subsidizing the fossil fuel industry with about $20.5 billion per year, one could argue that these companies have been extremely successful. 

A collaborative and collective effort of communities is a powerful tool that we have at our disposal. We must utilize it if we have any chance at addressing these threats to human civilization and our global ecosystem. As daunting as it is to stand up to large corporations, the power really is with the people. Once enough people recognize this, we can start to take steps to enact change.

Moss Landing Marine Labs Climate Collective (MCC)

The brunt of climate impacts will be felt locally at first – which is the most important place we can enact change. Many local governments already have action plans which include reductions in CO2 targets and other measures. Many scientists aim to produce objective, accessible science and aren’t always ready to get involved by making political statements. However, the Moss Landing Marine Labs Climate Collective (MCC) believes that it is no longer just a political issue. We believe that politics, social justice, and science are intimately intertwined (Figure 2). Therefore, we seek to facilitate discussions, increase collaborative learning and research, and push for climate solutions and action plans.

Figure 2. An illustration (IPCC 2022) of the interconnection of climate science, environmental impacts, and subsequent human actions

Combating the climate crisis while doing thesis work, completing coursework, and working potentially 1-3 jobs may seem like an overwhelming or impossible task. Even if you are not a graduate student, working in the job force while slowly seeing the climate crisis unfold can make you feel powerless. But working towards climate action is possible and it must be done. The U.S. is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and this being a global issue means that we are all under an obligation to give what time and energy we can to this.

If we share the burden together, the weight on our shoulders will feel so much lighter. 

What does it mean to you to be part of the Moss Landing Marine Labs community when faced with such an existential threat to human civilization?

It means coming together to face these problems head-on. Everything from advocating divestment from fossil fuels to making local initiatives more accessible to the Moss Landing community. Solutions to the climate crisis need to also address complex issues like race, class, gender, and sexuality.

MCC Mission Statement:

“We are a collective of students from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory CSU consortium that strives to advocate for the implementation of sustainable university and community-wide practices. We believe that politics, social justice, and science are intimately intertwined, and therefore we created the MLML Climate Collective (MCC) which aims to support action towards combating causes of anthropogenically-driven climate change through tangible measures, such as:

  • Obtaining comprehensive carbon neutrality plans (without carbon offsets) with a detailed timeline from home campuses
  • Creating a dialogue about university divestment in fossil fuels
  • Identifying and implementing sustainable campus living measures, including power generation and conservation, responsible recycling (e.g. food, clothes, electronics), and campus water management
  • Recognition of intersectionality (i.e. class, gender, race, sexuality, etc.) in climate response
  • Providing a safe space and inclusive environment to openly discuss climate issues and ways to support the MLML community”

These next couple of decades will be a challenge for everyone, so we kindly invite you to join us in the MLML Climate Collective. If you are interested in being involved please contact us.



[1] IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In press.

[2] IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926

[3] Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul R Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo. “Biological Annihilation via the Ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction Signaled by Vertebrate Population Losses and Declines.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS 114.30 (2017): E6089–E6096.

Gradinger, R. (1995). Climate Change and Biological Oceanography of the Arctic Ocean. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 352(1699), 277–286. doi:10.1098/rsta.1995.0070 

Thompson, Peter A. et al. “Climate Variability Drives Plankton Community Composition Changes: The 2010–2011 El Niño to La Niña Transition Around Australia.” Journal of Plankton Research 37.5 (2015): 966–984.

Altieri, AH, and KB Gedan. “Climate Change and Dead Zones.” Global Change Biology 21.4 (2015): 1395–1406.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O et al. “Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 318.5857 (2007): 1737–1742. 

Hunt, James E. et al. “Frequency and Timing of Landslide-Triggered Turbidity Currents Within the Agadir Basin, Offshore NW Africa: Are There Associations with Climate Change, Sea Level Change and Slope Sedimentation Rates?” Marine Geology 346 (2013): 274–291.

Trenhaile, Alan S. “Modeling Cohesive Clay Coast Evolution and Response to Climate Change.” Marine Geology 277.1 (2010): 11–20.

Genner, Martin J. et al. “Body Size-Dependent Responses of a Marine Fish Assemblage to Climate Change and Fishing over a Century-Long Scale.” Global Change Biology 16.2 (2010): 517–527.

Pörtner, Hans O, and Rainer Knust. “Climate Change Affects Marine Fishes Through the Oxygen Limitation of Thermal Tolerance.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 315.5808 (2007): 95–97.

Byrne, Maria et al. “Limitations of Cross— and Multigenerational Plasticity for Marine Invertebrates Faced with Global Climate Change.” Global Change Biology 26.1 (2020): 80–102.

Reddin, Carl J., Ádám T. Kocsis, and Wolfgang Kiessling. “Marine Invertebrate Migrations Trace Climate Change over 450 Million Years.” Global Ecology and Biogeography 29.7 (2020): 1280–1282.

Assis, Jorge, Miguel B. Araújo, and Ester A. Serrão. “Projected Climate Changes Threaten Ancient Refugia of Kelp Forests in the North Atlantic.” Global Change Biology 24.1 (2018): e55–e66.

Krumhansl, Kira A, Jean-Sébastien Lauzon-Guay, and Robert E Scheibling. “Modeling Effects of Climate Change and Phase Shifts on Detrital Production of a Kelp Bed.” Ecology (Durham) 95.3 (2014): 763–774. Web.

Bakun, A. “Global Climate Change and Intensification of Coastal Ocean Upwelling.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 247.4939 (1990): 198–201.

van Leeuwen, SM et al. “The Mediterranean Rhodes Gyre: Modelled Impacts of Climate Change, Acidification and Fishing.” Marine Ecology Progress Series (Halstenbek) 690 (2022): 31–50. Web.

Kovacs, Kit M, and Christian Lydersen. “Climate Change Impacts on Seals and Whales in the North Atlantic Arctic and Adjacent Shelf Seas.” Science Progress (1916) 91.2 (2008): 117–150. Web.

Forcada, Jaume, and Trathan, PN. “Penguin Responses to Climate Change in the Southern Ocean.” Global Change Biology 15.7 (2009): 1618–1630. Web.

Crippa, M., Guizzardi, D., Solazzo, E., Muntean, M., Schaaf, E., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Banja, M., Olivier, J.G.J., Grassi, G., Rossi, S., Vignati, E.,GHG emissions of all world countries - 2021 Report, EUR 30831 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2021, ISBN 978-92-76-41547-3, doi:10.2760/173513, JRC126363

Does science have market value? Understanding the influence of science on the economy

by Jason Gonsalves, MLML Physical Oceanography Lab


Eco-consciousness at first seems like an individual choice without wider implications. Working with Green Seal this past summer revealed the attachment of this behavior to anentire market through a process called ecolabeling. Green Seal generates “rigorous standards for health, sustainability and product performance” that aim to drive “permanent shifts in the marketplace, empowering better purchasing decisions and rewarding industry innovators.” As an intern in the Science & Standards Department with Green Seal, I witnessed both how widespread these labels are, and how companies concern themselves with being portrayed as ‘environmentally friendly’, so much so that they’d pay to be certified by ecolabeling nonprofits like Green Seal. At a moment where conservation of the environment is increasingly more popular and desired, I began to wonder about how valuable science (and by extension conservation) is to the economy.

A 2020 report from Gutleber states that “science and technology underpin much of the advance of human welfare and the long-term progress of our civilization.” The focus of Gutleber’s report is on the efficacy of investing in particle physics, noting “large-scale instruments can also offer positive returns for the economy and society as well as many opportunities for industry and enable co-innovation through international collaboration.” However, these benefits could be extended to other scientific operations as innovation expands in other disciplines. Has the expansion of science into the mainstream world created market value for scientific interpretation?

Does scientific advancement generate revenue?

Globally, there are research initiatives that are contributing considerable economic growth. Examples of this are organizations like the National Institute of Health (NIH), which generates $2.21 in additional economic output for every $1 spent on biomedical innovation. In Australia, government analysts released a report in 2015 recognizing around $145 billion a year in revenue from innovation in science and research.

While preliminary costs are often times large, studies have shown investment into public research yields a high rate of return through scientific breakthroughs. Source: Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academies, 2006)

Other than direct production from research endeavors, improvements in scientific fields have led to the preservation of assets in world resources. A 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report estimated ocean assets (i.e. fishing, aquaculture, tourism, education, shipping) totalling over $24 trillion in value. Anthropogenic effects like habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and climate change have begun to chip away at that value. Advances in ocean sustainability, coastal management and new technology are crucial to maintaining the value of critical resources like the ocean.

The business perspective on science

Investment into scientific innovation is clearly profitable, and the numbers show that the corporate world should build this into their framework. However, over the past 30 years, there has been a considerable decline in corporate R&D on basic research concepts as opposed to late stage development. A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) 2015 report found that companies are still patenting new products, but those patents are being acquired from other places.

Combined internal and acquired publications and patents for science and technology, showing a clear downward trend in internal company R&D. Source: Arora et. al (2015)

It seems corporations have become more interested in the products of science as opposed to scientific applicability. Large-scale R&D has been beneficial to society, but there is a possibility that it is not commercially viable. Looking at it from a business perspective, the biggest obstacle is the viability for shareholder returns. It’s clearly imperative that not only the United States, but the world not lose sight of the importance in advancing scientific discovery. How do we pitch investing in science more effectively to corporations?

Reinvigorating the corporate conversation on scientific innovation

The same Australian study concludes that in societies with an ‘advanced’ economy (i.e., a high standard of living), science underpinned 10-15% of economic activity. In order for continued economic growth, the logical undertone would be that science and technology will require further development. To return to an age of rapid scientific progress and innovation, the conversation must be approached from both an academic and economic standpoint.

Academia has long been considered an ‘ivory tower,’ and accessibility to information from non-scientists has been difficult for a number of years. This mentality created a gap in trust and accountability between the public and scientists, but recent data shows that could be changing. Pew Research Center’s 2020 polling data shows that 73% of Americans believe science has positively impacted society, and 82% expect future developments to also be impactful. Public confidence in scientists has also increased, the same data noting 35% of Americans fully trust scientists (up from 29% in 2016) and 51% have a fair amount of trust for scientists.

There is still more work to be done about the transparency of science, however, with that same 2020 polling data showing two-in-ten or fewer Americans don’t believe scientists are transparent about their conflicts of interest, and less than two-in-ten Americans believe scientists admit and take responsibility for their mistakes. This seems to be remedied in the study, with 57% of Americans saying they trust scientists more when data is publicly available.

Solving the divide between the public and the scientific community should restore scientific advancement to the forefront of social and economic development. Only time will tell if the efforts scientists are currently making will be enough to shorten that gap.

Fourteen students defend thesis research in 2021!

By Emily Montgomery, MLML Phycology Lab

2021 was a complex year to be a graduate student, with global societal issues demanding our attention and energy alongside our usual scientific workload. The emergence of the COVID-19 vaccines brought with it the hope of being able to safely socialize in-person with our friends and loved ones again. The resilient Moss community was able to return to some in-person activities in the Fall of 2021, including hosting the first lab Halloween party since 2019!

During this rollercoaster of a year, 14 students successfully defended their MLML theses virtually via Zoom. Please join me in congratulating the following students:

  • Ann Bishop, Phycology Lab
  • Taylor Eddy, Invertebrate Zoology Lab
  • Bonnie Brown, Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab
  • Matthew Jew, Ichthyology Lab
  • Justin Cordova, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Gregory Bongey, Geological Oceanography Lab
  • Jennifer Tackaberry, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
  • Sophie Bernstein, Ichthyology Lab
  • Rachel Brooks, Ichthyology Lab
  • Holly Doerr, Ichthyology Lab
  • Melissa Naugle, Invertebrate Ecology Lab
  • Kristen Saksa, Ichthyology Lab
  • Jacquie Chisholm, Physical Oceanography Lab
  • Amanda Camarato, Physical Oceanography Lab

Read below for pictures of the graduates, and explore the links to their thesis announcement posts with more info about their projects and the YouTube recordings of their defenses.

Check out posts commemorating past defenders written by MLML alumna June Shrestha: 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Read More

Dissonance in science communication: Taking an evidence-based approach to discussing climate science

By Jason Gonsalves, MLML Physical Oceanography Lab


You don’t have to be actively involved in the larger national discussion to know that climate change is an increasingly sensitive topic, even in 2021. As unbelievable as it may sound, the chances of someone in your social circle not being under the impression that global warming is happening are shockingly high. In a 2020 survey, an estimated 72% of Americans think global warming is happening right now. When adjusting to a more specific question, that same survey showed that only 57% of Americans believe global warming is occurring as a result of human activities.

Read More

Thirteen students defend thesis research in 2019!

By June Shrestha, MLML Ichthyology Lab

I'm happy to share that we've had a total of 13 students students defend their theses in 2019! Please join me in congratulating the students, and read below to learn a little more about their research.

  • Steven Cunningham, Phycology
  • Amanda Heidt, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Sharon Hsu, Vertebrate Ecology
  • Brijonnay Madrigal, Vertebrate Ecology
  • Cynthia Michaud, Physical Oceanography
  • Elizabeth Ramsay, Phycology
  • Katie Harrington, Vertebrate Ecology
  • Jessica Jang, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Melissa Nehmens, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab
  • Patrick Daniel, Physical Oceanography
  • Heather Barrett, Vertebrate Ecology
  • Sierra Helmann, Biological Oceanography

Read More

Habitat Mapping: Marcel, Miya, & the Multibeam

By Miya Pavlock McAuliffe (Physical Oceanography Lab) and Marcel Peliks (Geological Oceanography Lab)

As a part of our Habitat Mapping Class this semester we undertook the mission of learning the ins and outs of seafloor mapping theory and practice to make our new Kongsberg M3 Multibeam system work. The M3 is a seafloor mapping system that has excited a lot of folks at MLML with its potential to collect geological, physical, and even biological data beneath the surface of the water. It depends upon many sensors as well as software, and right off the bat we would like to thank QPS for donating us a license to QINSY for data acquisition and Qimera for data processing! Another part of this project involved entering a National Geographic competition...which we’ll revisit later in this post.

Marcel and Miya troubleshooting the M3.

First, we must discuss the scientific questions we hope to address. We are a part of the Geological Oceanography lab and are interested in the mysterious submarine landslides that occur, starting at the head of the Monterey Canyon. A lot of research by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and California State University’s Seafloor Mapping Lab (SFML) have used deep water mapping technology and other high-tech equipment to study the canyon in the deep.

From these studies, we know that massive underwater landslides occur periodically at the edges of the canyon, and have been shown to move sand, mud, and rocks miles down. We aren’t sure why they happen and they don’t seem to match up with earthquakes or storms. Our hypotheses have to do with how sediment builds up at the head of the canyon and if it is connected to the longshore sediment transport system around the Monterey Bay. Does a submarine landslide occur following a large loss of sand on the beach? Are we losing beach sand to the belly of the canyon, forever? Can we correlate submarine landslide events with any other phenomena? In order to test our hypotheses we must map the head of the canyon more frequently than ever before and the M3 is a perfect instrument to allow us to do so.

Along the way, the MLML “Shop Guys” built us a pole mount to attach the M3 to a MLML whaler, a boat that we can take out to the canyon and survey within an hour or two. Dr. Ivano Aiello brought the M3 to the lab and QPS supplied the software to be able to acquire and process data. Dr. Tom Connolly supplied a field laptop that is water resistant, has a bright enough screen to beat the sun, and has a fantastic battery life, and we brought student brains that figured the rest out. This meant lots of reading manuals, troubleshooting, and more troubleshooting. When we couldn’t troubleshoot alone anymore, Pat Iampietro from CSUMB helped us through a major sticking point with his expertise. The wonderful community and affiliates of Moss Landing Marine Labs were integral to our journey the past few months.

Though we’ve had many challenges throughout the semester, we’ve succeeded in conducting some promising preliminary surveys with the equipment we have available: the field laptop, a Trimble ProXH GPS, and our M3. We’ve collected preliminary data in the Moss Landing Harbor as well as the head of the Monterey Submarine Canyon. See a map of some preliminary depths below:

Map of preliminary data collected by M3 in Moss Landing Harbor and head of submarine canyon. Red colors are shallow and blue colors are deep.

Still, we are in need of a few additional sensors to make any data collected with our system truly scientifically sound, including something called a Motion Reference Unit (MRU) and a gyro compass. Seafloor mapping draws from the fact that sound travels about five times faster in water than in air. The M3 is a transducer --or speaker-- that emits sound toward the seafloor, listens for the return, and calculates the two-way travel time to infer the depth of the seafloor below the boat.

Therefore, you must supply tide information (tide info found from NOAA tide gauges online), speed of sound information (which we do not yet have a way of measuring), information of the boat due to waves, as well as precise position information. An MRU would provide very precise information regarding the motion of the boat due to the motion of the ocean. Without athese measurements, we can’t be sure if the depths we are gathering are accurate. We can’t be sure because the motion of the boat would affect the angle at which the sound from the M3 is emitted which would affect the angle of return and therefore depth measurements. A gyro compass would give us accurate measurements of heading, which is critical to determining the direction the boat is moving with very high precision. We hope to get these sensors soon so that we can continue investigating the cause(s) of submarine landslides in the Monterey Canyon.

Having struggled with instrument troubleshooting, system setups, and constantly untangling cables, we gained a vast appreciation for marine technicians. Throughout this journey, we noticed that we couldn’t really find information about the inevitable struggles of setting up a new scientific system for the first time and decided to keep track of our trials and tribulations by way of a National Geographic Open Explorer Expedition. Read more here!

The OpenROV Trident the team won in the S.E.E. (Science Exploration Education) Initiative competition from National Geographic being opened in the lab!

You can subscribe to our Open Explorer page to receive updates when we reach new milestones (or more likely encounter new challenges). The Open Explorer page was also a part of a National Geographic Competition to win an underwater drone (aka remotely operated vehicle (ROV)), which we found out that we won! We hope that the underwater drone will provide a method of validating our seafloor mapping data once we’ve gathered the rest of the equipment we need, as well as prove useful for the rest of the MLML community.

Finally, we’d like to thank MLML for their amazing support in following our Open Explorer Expedition. We grew from 2 to 76 followers in two days, and are overwhelmed with the amount of help from our small community.

Congratulations to our 2017 graduates!

By June ShresthaIchthyology Lab

Congratulations to 14 students who defended their research theses and graduated from our program this year! Student research spanned across continents, taking us from the kelp forests of California, to the deep seas of South Africa, and even Antarctica!

The following students were awarded a Masters of Science in Marine Science:

  • Angela Zepp, Phycology
  • Devona Yates, Ichthyology
  • Maureen Wise, Chemical Oceanography & Phycology
  • Melinda Wheelock, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Kristin Walovich, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Dorota Szuta, Benthic Ecology
  • Scott Miller, Ichthyology
  • Ryan Manzer, Physical Oceanography
  • James Knuckey, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Jen Keliher, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Jinchen (Martin) Guo, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Christian Denney, Fisheries and Conservation Biology
  • Paul Clerkin, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Stephan Bitterwolf, Phycology

Read below to learn more about the graduates' research. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

Read More

A Season of Faith’s Perfection

By Drew Burrier, Physical Oceanography Lab

That title was used in a movie to describe the hope that springs eternal at the start of a new baseball season and it has always stuck with me. Perhaps it comes from growing up in Cleveland, Ohio a city famous (until recently) for middling sports performance. And yet, every year, that first day of the season possesses a certain magic. The idea that this is the year, this is the year that it all comes together. On the first day of the season, teams and fan bases alike truly believes that they are headed to the World Series. That is the beauty of a season of promise, not yet touched by disappointment or shortcomings.

You might find it odd to be talking about the start of baseball season as the leaves are starting to change colors and falls cool morning are upon us and as pennant races are all but settled. Or for this subject to appear on a graduate student marine science blog, however for students all over the country strapping on their backpacks, the fall carries with it a spring sense of rebirth.

Students, Faculty and staff join for the annual barbecue to welcome the incoming students.

Here at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories this spirit is upon us once again. For the newest cohort, it is perhaps most obvious. They have come from all over the world to start their graduate work in marine science. It is an exciting time filled with promise. Some have come straight from the undergraduate programs and others have come from internships and full-time jobs. Yet they all carry with them the promise of a life remade by the commitment of time and energy they are about to dedicate to studying the earth’s ocean environs. For all of us Moss Landing marks the beginning of our careers as marine scientists. For the returning students, fresh off a summer mired in thesis work, the fall is also a time for shifting gears and buckling down to accomplish a new task. Our data collection has wrapped up, and now it is time to analyze what we’ve done in the field, and coalesce that into a polished, cogent work of science.

For me, it is my last fall here at the labs. And as my emerging crow’s feet and increasing waistline elicit a fall spirit, I am once again gripped by the promise that this new school year holds. Now the labors of 4 years come to fruition as I prepare to defend my thesis. At the same time I am planning for a life outside these walls, (as tough as giving up my office view will be), as critical a component of one's graduate work as defending it.

And so to the new cohort joining our ranks I bid you welcome, and best wishes as you begin this new chapter. To those of you returning from a summer spent fleshing out thesis projects I wish you happy hunting as you progress. Finally to my fellow fall defenders I wish you happy resolutions and fond memories as you put the finishing touches on this chapter and start the next. May this truly be a season of perfection.


Stepping up to the Plate

By Drew Burrier

When I originally conceived of this post 2 months ago I thought it would be a reflection of my experiences presenting my research at a major science conference for the first time.

It has since morphed into something else.

The third week of December I joined 20,000 of my colleagues in

AGU was held at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco

the Earth Sciences at the 2016 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I was one of around 8,000 students who arrived in San Francisco to present one of the 15,000 posters that would be displayed over the course of the week. It’s hard to describe the emotions of a graduate student attending their first conference. Its how I imagine a promising pitcher feels when they walk into a big league locker room after having been called up from the minors. They have left the relative comfort of the minor leagues, and are now face to face with their idols, the people they have admired in their profession from afar, never thinking it possible that they could one day compete on that level. They must ask themselves: “am I good enough to be here?”

Read More

Class Cruisin’

By Drew Burrier

There are days that change you. One minute you are chasing what you thought was your dream, and then something comes along that changes your trajectory. Those days are rare, and can come to define one’s entire purpose in life.

For me that day was my first day at sea, working to unravel it’s mysteries aboard the R/V Pt. Sur. I had fallen in love with the ocean before, and knew that I wanted to become a scientist, but that day would come to change just exactly what aspect of Marine Science would become my life’s pursuit.

dsc_8312Prior to this cruise, whales and dolphins had dominated my interest in the ocean. They are charismatic and graceful, and inspire wonder in anyone able to view them in their world. I had been involved in research projects with these wondrous animals armed with a camera lens and a fast boat. So it was strange that a day at sea lowering instruments into the water and pulling them back up could supplant the sense of adventure I had already experienced. This particular cruise, however, was for the Physical Oceanography class that I had enrolled in at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Physical oceanography is the study of the physical properties of the ocean, or more bluntly, it is the study of how energy is put into and distributed in the global ocean. I had never considered it as a field I was interested in, or that it could even be an option for my career, but by the end of that day at sea, I new that I was not the same person that had left the dock.  It turned out the mysteries that I was most interested in, that appealed to me the most were not the creatures roaming the depths, but the awe-inspiring forces that shape our planet.

Last week I served as the Graduate Assistant for that same Physical Oceanography class and was able to observe the students in my class going through this same experience that had such a profound impact on me. The goal of this cruise was not simply to expose students to the joys of working at sea, but to hunt for elusive giants in oceanography: internal waves.

Our cruise path for our day's sampling. We samples this stations in order twice with a stop to change crews in between.

Internal waves are very similar to the surface waves you are most likely familiar with, with the exception that they oscillate within the ocean rather than at its surface, like the waves you may have surfed. The difficulty in studying these waves, however, is that they occur in parts of the ocean that are challenging to reach and require special instruments to be able to detect. One such suite of instruments is called a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth), which is lowered through the ocean via a winch and measures the key components of density in the ocean, namely temperature, salinity (extrapolated from conductivity) and pressure (depth). These properties are unique throughout the world ocean and determine how internal waves behave because just like at the surface, waves propagate along density boundaries. The second tool we use to detect internal waves is an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), which in simplest terms is an underwater speaker and microphone that makes a sound at a known frequency (pitch) and then listens for the return signal. The change in that pitch is related to the direction and speed that the current the sound wave passes through. You’ve undoubtedly experienced this if you’ve ever been standing still when a truck passed you blaring its horn. The sound at the truck is never changing, but since it is moving away from you, you perceive a pitch change. As internal waves pass the ADCP the velocity of the water at various depths tells us a lot about the characteristics of the internal waves.

The data we get back from the ADCP looks like this. Its broken down into the Eastward(U) and Northward(V) components of the velocity. The instrument also records quality control information (percent good) as well as the strength of the return.

As I watched my class donning life jackets and hard helmets, fighting the roll of the ship and the occasional wave spilling over the aft deck, straining to guide the heavy instrumentation on and off of the deck, wet and tired but undaunted, I couldn’t help but return their beaming smiles. Working aboard an oceanographic vessel is no simple feat, but for some reason nobody ever sees it as work. Not the first time, and not the 1,000th. It is an endless adventure that will continue to reward the persistent. I can certainly appreciate that not everyone gravitates to the field of oceanography as I have. But I can say with confidence, having seen it in the eyes of my students, that there is something universally magical about one’s first research cruise. I experienced it and it changed my life. The beauty of this field is that, there’s always something new to learn and experience.

The view aft of the rising sun behind the iconic smoke stacks in Moss Landing. On the deck is our CTD Rosette, which is lowered through the water column at each station.